SISSETON – Kelsey Heath is mentally tough, physically strong and fully prepared for her final high school golf tournament.
The senior from Sisseton possesses the physical tools, has worked on her mental toughness, and this past winter when many were still sleeping, increased her physical strength at the school’s weight room.
As a result, Heather enters the Class A State Girls’ Golf Tournament as one of the individual favorites.
“I played volleyball in high school and so we did workouts for that,” Heath said. “It made me feel more awake during the day, so I’ve been working out every day since volleyball was over. I think it’s just really helped me a lot in keeping a good athletic physique, and I can see it in my golf game.”
Heath said when she would head off for those 5:45 a.m. workouts, she thought more about her own health than she did about the competition.
“I did it because it made me feel good. I guess I didn’t really think about if other golfers were doing it. I knew that it was good for me and it made me feel good,” Heath said. “It takes a lot of self-discipline, but once you get into that routine, it feels normal. You get used to it. I can definitely notice from the past years that I’ve gained a little more distance, not like a huge amount, but anything really counts.
When you have the ability that Heath has, little things can become big things.
That includes being able to learn from mistakes and sharpen mental toughness.
“You really have to keep your mind intact when you’re playing golf, otherwise your whole game can just go bad. It takes a lot of experience,” Heath said. “I think for me, I just have to remember that, that hole is over. I can be mad for a little bit, but right when I get to that next hole I have to let it go and play the game from there. Like there’s nothing I can do about the last hole, but I can actually do something with this next hole.”
Heath grew up playing golf with her old sister, Courtney. The two pushed each other to make each other better.
“It was definitely healthy competition,” Heath said. “We always practiced together, trying to one up each other. It was good.”
It was her sophomore season duing the state tourney at Lee Park in Aberdeen when Kelsey realized she had what it took to be one of the top Class A players in South Dakota after a fourth place finish.
“A big moment was at state two years ago as sophomore when I shot that 77 and I realized that wow, I am actually pretty at good this,” Heath said.
Since that tourney, Heath has lost just one time, that coming in a playoff earlier this spring. Otherwise, she has set the pace everywhere she has played.
And the one person who has been there every step of the way has been her coach and father, Eric Heath.
“As a coach, I love the work ethic of Kelsey. She wants to work on every part of her game and continues to work until she gets it the way she wants,” Coach Heath said. “As a father, I am proud of her because she works hard, keeps a positive attitude and is a joy to be around. She is an honest and caring individual who loves the game of golf.”
The sport will continue to be a family affair as Kelsey plans on heading to Mount Marty next fall where she will be reunited with Courtney, who currently golfs for the Lancers.
“Originally, I didn’t want to go where she was going,” Heath said, “but then I thought maybe it would be good and we can golf together, make each other better again.”
Before then, there is a matter of next week’s Class A state tournament.
“I obviously do want to place high, but ultimately I just want to have no three putts; that’s one of my goals,” Heath said. “And I want to make sure that I don’t get down on myself. I want to play my game the way I know I can, and that’s probably another one of my goals.”
Of course, when Heath packs her clubs and heads west to Spearfish this weekend, one of the most important things she will take along is that mental toughness that has helped to set her apart from the competition.
“It’s definitely nerve wrecking. I’ve been talking to my dad about this, how to handle the nerves, how do deal with all the pressure of me being favored to win,” Heath said. “What I’ve come to, and my dad has helped me with this, is all I can do is play my own game. I can’t worry about what anyone else thinks, and I just have to go out there and whatever happens, happens. I just have to keep a positive mind.”
Self-discipline from early-morning lifting, mental toughness, competitive drive and the talent to trust it all has Heath in prime position for a big finish to her prep career.
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